Impact investing offers opportunity to ‘do well by doing good’
As part of its core mission, JEWISHcolorado serves as a philanthropic home for the community in Colorado—investing and protecting Jewish communal assets. The Jewish Community Foundation provides a range of options for stakeholders with diverse financial objectives. For stakeholders whose objectives include creating meaningful societal impact, JEWISHcolorado offers the Impact Capital Fund.
Impact investing uses investment capital to generate beneficial social or environmental effects in addition to financial gains.
“Impact investing may not be for everyone,” says Ben Valore-Caplan, Co-President of Syntrinsic, JEWISHcolorado’s investment partner. “But JEWISHcolorado recognizes that impact investing may resonate with donors and agency partners who are looking for more creative ways to activate their capital, engage the next generation, and leverage their philanthropy in new ways.”
To that end, the JEWISHcolorado Impact Capital Fund allocates capital to underserved people in Colorado, the U.S., and Israel with investments that focus on job training and creation, as well as lending to support small businesses, affordable housing, and economic development.
The impact of this kind of investment can only be told in the stories of real people—whether they are small business owners in Israel or moderate-income renters in Denver.
Ogen Social Loan Fund
To understand the impact of an investment in the Ogen Social Loan Fund in Israel, you must start in a small falafel shop in Jerusalem owned by two Israeli brothers. They had run the shop for 15 years successfully, employing a small staff, including Arab Israelis. Then, COVID hit, and their customers vanished. In a perfect storm of crises, some of their most important equipment started to fail. They needed to invest in the business to continue.
They approached two banks for a loan and both times were turned down. It seemed as if they would lose the business, until they consulted with a business advisor who sent them to Ogen Social Loan Fund.
Ogen began decades ago as a nonprofit social lending enterprise supported by donations that were deployed to help new immigrants from Ethiopia and the Soviet Union start businesses despite their lack of credit history and collateral. In early 2020, amid COVID closures, Ogen launched the Social Loan Fund with $43 million in start-up capital, funded by donors and impact investors in Israel and around the world. The fund provides accessible low-interest loans to micro and small businesses as well as nonprofit organizations.
“We believe in growing the economy from the bottom up and thereby creating jobs,” says Eldan Kaye, Vice-President for Development and Partnerships at Ogen. “We work with every race, religion, gender—we don’t care. We are about creating opportunities.”
Ogen gave the falafel shop a 200,000 shekel loan, roughly $70,000. With it, the brothers renovated, created a delivery-based business during COVID, replaced equipment, added air conditioning, and expanded. In the two years since the loan, the business has doubled in profitability, and seven families that would have become unemployed without Ogen are working harder than ever.
“They pay their loan on time, and they have a new lease on life,” Kaye says. “Investing in Ogen, you can have tremendous impact on people’s lives at the same time you are part of something you can be proud of. You can do well by doing good.”
CHAI Debt Fund
Ed Briscoe traces his commitment to affordable housing to a high school summer volunteer trip in New Orleans.
“I remember standing and looking at the Superdome and the Hyatt, and in the foreground, I was looking at public housing,” he says. “The disparity between seeing those symbols of wealth and not very far away seeing people living in poor conditions struck me as wrong. This is America, and it did not make sense.”
Fast forward several decades and Briscoe has found a way to merge his passion for affordable housing with his business background as founder and managing director of Weave Social Finance, which created and runs CHAI Debt Fund with co-founder Abby Murray. While “CHAI” may carry significance within the Jewish community, it is actually an acronym for Colorado Housing Accelerator Initiative. CHAI Fund dedicates itself to providing funding that will house a population that is often called the “working poor” or middle income, earning 60-120% of the average median income in the area.
“These are people who struggle to buy a house or now even struggle to pay rent,” Briscoe says. “To put a roof over their heads, either their personal finances are squeezed, or they squeeze into places that are too small or are poorly maintained.”
CHAI Fund has housing projects around the state of Colorado—from Grand Junction to Walsenburg, from Silverthorne to Denver. In Denver, CHAI partnered with a Filipino immigrant woman who had come to Denver in her thirties, worked hard, acquired multiple rental homes and small apartment buildings, always keeping the rents affordable. Now, in her eighties, she wanted to consolidate some of her investments in one 82-unit community. By partnering with CHAI, she made the purchase, keeping rents under 30% of a tenant’s income. Through CHAI, her tenants are enrolled in a “tenant equity vehicle,” whereby they share in the profits generated by their housing.
“We help people get into affordable housing and help them get on a path to save for their future,” Briscoe says. “If you are poor or moderate income, you still deserve to live in dignity in a home you can afford.”
For more information about Ogen Social Loan Fund and CHAI Debt Fund as well as Impact Capital strategy, contact Ben Valore-Caplan at email@example.com.